Anaplasmosis is a disease caused by bacteria that is spread through tick bites, especially the black-legged tick and the western black-legged tick. Symptoms usually start a week or two after being bitten, and early symptoms include fever, chills, severe headache, muscle aches, vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea.

If left untreated, or you have other conditions like a weakened immune system, in rare cases it can cause serious complications like respiratory failure, organ failure, or even death. Treatment can help reduce the risk of this happening.

How is anaplasmosis related to Lyme disease?

Anaplasmosis is a tickborne disease like Lyme disease, which means both diseases are spread through tick bites by infected ticks. Both diseases are also spread by black-legged ticks. It is not the same exact virus, but it can still cause significant symptoms and long-term complications in people.

Black-legged ticks can transmit any or all of the following diseases with their bite:

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For people of all ages, doxycycline is the preferred treatment for anaplasmosis. For adults, the dosage is 100 milligrams (mg) every 12 hours. It’s most effective if started as early as possible. An optimal treatment duration has not been established yet, but people who have been on the treatment for 7 to 10 days typically resolve the infection completely.

Treatment guidelines

These are just general recommendations, but keep in mind you should always follow the course of treatment that your doctor recommends.

  • Adults will typically take doxycycline for 7 to 10 days.
  • Children should be on doxycycline for 5 to 7 days because of the occasional adverse effects (staining) this medication has on teeth.
  • People over the age of 8 years old who cannot take doxycycline may be treated with tetracycline. The dosage for this is 500 mg 4 times a day for 10-14 days.
  • Children under the age of 8 who cannot take doxycycline may be treated with rifampin. The specific dosage depends on the weight of the child.
  • Those who are also suspected of coinfection with Lyme disease should be treated with doxycycline for 14 days.

Even without additional, specific antibiotics, people on doxycycline have shown improvement and cure. If there is no response to the doxycycline, the infection may not be anaplasmosis, or there may also be co-occurring infections.

Is anaplasmosis curable in humans?

Yes, anaplasmosis is curable in humans. Even without treatment, in most people, it’s usually a mild, limited course of illness. Treatment is done to reduce the risk of serious illness or complications and relieve symptoms.

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For pregnant people who have mild anaplasmosis, alternative antibiotics might be a better choice. Doxycycline has been shown to possibly impact bone and tooth development in a fetus. For pregnant people, rifampin has been shown to be effective for anaplasmosis. It is not effective for co-occurring Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Lyme disease, though.

Anaplasmosis has been found to usually be mild during pregnancy and is not associated with any short- or long-term adverse effects on the developing fetus. If the disease is suspected, it should try to be confirmed by PCR or blood cultures; but if it is highly suspected, treatment with rifampin or doxycycline is recommended.

While people can recover from anaplasmosis without taking doxycycline, there is the chance that it may progress to severe illness. There are no natural treatment options that are clinically effective or recommended.

While symptoms often resolve soon after starting treatment, there are natural treatments you can use for symptom relief, including:

Do not take any natural supplements without first checking with your healthcare professional. Even though they’re natural, they can still interfere with certain medications, possibly making them less effective.

Symptoms do not usually appear for 1 to 2 weeks, and many people don’t even remember the tick bite. Early symptoms, typically days 1 to 5, are mild to moderate. Once treatment is started, fever often resolves within 24 to 48 hours.

People who are thought to have anaplasmosis should be on medication for 10 to 14 days. This will also provide treatment if there is coinfection with Lyme disease.

Some children younger than 8 years old have been treated successfully with rifampin for 7 to 10 days.

Most people who are not treated at all with medication recover completely within 60 days. There are no studies that have found anyone with active clinical symptoms for more than 2 months, but one study found people had significantly more recurring fevers, chills, fatigue, or sweats within one year post-infection. No evidence suggests infection becomes a chronic illness.

Can you have a relapse of anaplasmosis?

In people treated for anaplasmosis for 7 to 10 days, relapse or chronic infection has never been reported. However, it is possible to be reinfected again, although this is very rare.

A person likely has antibody titers to the disease, and the titers stay elevated for about 12-18 months after you’ve recovered. It is not known whether infection in humans can cause immunologic memory and subsequent immunity to the infection; this needs to be explored further.

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While anaplasmosis is transmitted through tick bites, it’s a different disease than Lyme disease, although they can occur together. Most people with anaplasmosis will have a mild course of the disease and fully recover, but those with underlying conditions may have complications that can even be life threatening — so treatment as early as possible is recommended for everyone.

Treatment typically consists of doxycycline for 10 to 14 days for adults.

There is no danger of relapse or developing a chronic condition due to the infection, and reinfection is rare. If you are pregnant, or your child under the age of 8 is infected, talk with your maternity care provider or your pediatrician. Rifampin has been found to be effective in both of those populations.